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Reputation is an asset to each and every one. Any damage to such asset can be legally dealt with. As the definition of the term implies, defamation is a harm to a person's reputation caused by a false statement. The law protects your reputation against defamation. If someone defames you, you can sue them for money (called damages) for harming your reputation. A man's reputation is considered as his property, and anybody who causes property damage is accountable under the law; similarly, anyone who harms a person's reputation is likewise liable under the law.


Article 19 of the Constitution grants various freedoms to its citizens. However, Article 19(2) has imposed reasonable exemption to freedom of speech and expression granted under Article 19(1) (a). Contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence are some exceptions.

Both civil and criminal law consider defamation to be an offence. Defamation is punished under civil law under the Law of Torts, which imposes a penalty in the form of damages to be given to the claimant. Defamation is a bailable, non-cognizable, and compoundable offence under criminal law. As a result, a police officer can only make an arrest if a magistrate issues an arrest warrant. The offence is punishable by a simple imprisonment of up to two years, a fine, or both under the Indian Penal Code.

Defamation as a criminal offence is listed under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. The punishment, mentioned under section 500, can extend upto simple imprisonment for a term of two years, or with fine, or both. But, Under a criminal suit, intention to defame is necessary.

  • SECTION – 499 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE – Defines, whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person is said to defame that person.

  • SECTION – 500 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE -  Punishment for defamation - Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.


  1. The statement must be defamatory

The first essential of defamation is that the nature of the statement must be defamatory, i.e., it should lower or injure the reputation of the person in society.

In the Case of Ram Jethmalani v. Subramanian Swamy court held Dr. Swamy to be liable for defaming Mr. Jethmalani by saying that he received money from a banned organization to protect the then CM of Tamil Nadu in the case of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

  1. The statement must refer to the plaintiff

In an action for defamation, the plaintiff has to prove that the statement of which he Complains referred to him, it will be immaterial that the defendant did not intend to defame the plaintiff. The defendant shall be held responsible if the person to whom the statement was published might reasonably conclude that the statement related to him. 

The defendants were declared responsible in the case of T.V., Ramasubha Iyer v. A.M.A Mohindeen Court for posting a statement without intending to slander the defendants. According to the announcement, a specific individual who was transporting Agarbathis to Ceylon had been detained for smuggling. The plaintiff was also a participant in a similar company, and his reputation was badly harmed as a result of this remark.

  1. The statement must be published

The most important essential of defamation is the publication of the defamatory content to a third party. Unless there is a publication of the statement, no action lies. 

In Mahendra Ram v. Harnandan Prasad, the defendant was found responsible for sending a defamatory letter to the plaintiff in Urdu, knowing that the plaintiff did not know Urdu and that the message would most likely be read by another person.


  1. SLANDER - It is the publication of a defamatory statement in a transient form. 

 For example- Defaming a person by way of words or gestures.

  1. LIBEL- It is the representation made in some permanent form.

For example- Defaming a person through a representation made in some permanent form like writing, printing etc.


The fact that defamation laws are a breach of the basic freedom provided by Article 19 of the constitution has sparked debate. The Supreme Court has found that defamation laws are constitutionally legitimate and do not conflict with the right to free expression. The court also stated that freedom of speech and expression is not absolute, but rather "absolutely sacred. Article 21 stipulates that a person's right to life includes his or her right to reputation, which cannot be jeopardised by others' freedom of expression.


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